Thousands of people believe it just isn’t the Fourth of July without a trip to Cape Cod. Then, the beaches typically remain packed for the rest of the summer.
It’s easy to understand why that’s the case. After all, Cape Cod National Seashore, which is just one of the area’s attractions, is home to 40 miles of pristine sandy beach as well as lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and even cranberry bogs.
It’s important to remember, however, that the area isn’t just appealing to humans. In fact, researchers from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy who study great white sharks on Cape Cod have begun reminding people that the sharks typically begin appearing in the area in July as the waters get warmer.
“Just know that large sharks are here,” Megan Winton, a scientist with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, said recently, according to the Associated Press. “They’re a constant presence from June to the fall.”
Indeed, Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro, Massachusetts, was temporarily closed earlier this week due to a great white shark sighting.
Great white sharks, for the most part, frequent the Atlantic Ocean-facing side of Cape Cod because that’s where they find seals to eat, explains Greg Skomal, a state marine biologist who studies the area’s great white sharks. That said, it’s important for beachgoers to always be vigilant whenever they swim where deep water is just off the shoreline.
“Sharks will come close to the shore when they have water depth,” Skomal said, according to the Associated Press.
How Research Keeps People Safe
“Cape Cod’s waters are part of a natural and wild marine ecosystem with a rich diversity of sea life, including sharks,” Cape Cod National Seashore explains. “Seals are the major prey species for the great white shark, and as the seal population increases, the great white shark has become more numerous. There are confirmed reports of great white sharks feeding on seals close to shore. Spotter planes flying along the Outer Cape have also observed great white sharks near swimming beaches.”
With that in mind, the question then becomes: Just how many sharks are there?
Researchers have tagged more than 280 great white sharks off Cape Cod since 2009. Importantly, nearly 230 of those tags are still transmitting data about the sharks’ movements, Winton and Skomal note.
The scientists have spent years studying great white shark migration and hunting behavior. Their research helps identify patterns in shark behavior, which can lead to understanding predictability.
Then, based on their research, the scientists can help local officials and people visiting the beach become more educated about great white sharks, including where they will appear and when they will be most active.
The result is that some beachgoers have begun to change their habits. For instance, some now keep close to shore when they swim while others don’t swim at all.
“It’s a conservation success story in terms of sharks and seals,” Winton said. “At the same time, this is an important place for people to recreate, so it’s important to find ways to coexist.”
Be Shark Smart
If you plan to visit Cape Cod this summer, the staff at Cape Cod National Seashore wants you to Be Shark Smart.
Chief among those tips are to remember that sharks hunt for seals in shallow water, stay close to shore where rescuers can reach you, and don’t swim by yourself. Instead, swim, paddle, kayak, and surf in groups.
Other tips to Be Shark Smart are to avoid areas where seals are present, avoid areas where schools of fish are visible, avoid murky or low-visibility water, and limit splashing.
Finally, of course, remember to follow all signage and flag warnings at beaches as well as instructions from lifeguards.
You can learn more about sharks at Cape Cod National Seashore, including more tips on how to Be Shark Smart, here.
To learn more about great white sharks and other sharks swimming near popular beaches, be sure to also read